Ottawa’s Auditor General raises concerns about resident safety inside city-run Long-Term Care Homes

Ottawa’s Auditor General says there are “weaknesses” in city-run Long-Term Care (LTC) Homes.

Ken Hughes, conducted two different investigations into issues within the city-run homes, one focusing on the handling of drugs, the other into an unreported case of sexual abuse.

The investigation into the handling of medication at two of the four city-run LTC Homes, Garry J. Armstrong and Peter D. Clark, was launched after calls into the city’s Fraud & Waste Hotline.  Auditors found “gaps” in the city’s policies.

“Current policies and procedures are not always being followed in the handling of medication at these residences and that poses a risk to residents’ health and safety,” says Hughes, “there is a very high risk of drug diversion.”

The investigation found drugs are at times left unattended, residents’ confidential charts were left in unlocked and unattended areas, medicine rooms have no cameras, and at times auditors were unable to determine who authorized the drugs to residents. 

In a separate investigation, after two anonymous letters to the Auditor General’s office, Hughes says they looked into the reporting around an incident of sexual abuse at one of the homes in 2017.  The city will not release the location of the alleged assault, only saying it was resident to resident abuse.

On the day of the incident, Hughes says a Personal Support Worker (PSW) was looking for a female resident at 8:40pm.  The woman, who was confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak, was found in the room of a male resident.  The man, who had exhibited concerning sexual behaviour in the past, was found naked trying to get on top of the woman in the wheelchair. The PSW then called for help, reporting the incident to the Registered Nurse (RN) in charge that shift.  Hughes says at 8:42pm the RN initiated an incident report but said because no one witnessed any “touching” there was no need to contact the Ministry of Health (MOH) or Ottawa Police, as per policy.  The next day, another RN on shift hears the story and feels the incident should be reported, contacting MOH and Ottawa Police.  The day after that, at 4:35pm, a critical incident report is initiated and submitted to the MOHLTC.

Hughes says the incident should have been reported sooner, and is concerned others too have gone unreported.  He says staff must identify risks earlier in order to prevent similar incidents.  

“In this case, the male resident had already been identified as a potential sexual abuse risk, but had remained in a mixed population with little supervision,” Hughes says, “had stronger measures been taken earlier, this incident may have been prevented.”

Hughes also had concerns of staff shortages. 

A separate, independent investigation, launched by the city, has also found a severe staffing shortage with in the four LTC Homes.  The investigator found each resident, in each home, requires 18-minutes more of care each day, calling on 35 new PSW positions immediately.

“It has been a struggle,” chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee Diane Deans tells CTV about the issues the city has faced in city owned facilities over the last several years, “the people in our Long-Term Care Homes are getting older, their needs are more complex, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need more staff, trained and available in our homes, to address those complex needs”.

If approved by council, the city will spend $1.8-million, immediately to hire additional PSW’s and put money into improving technology and training at the four LTC Homes.